Monday, September 07, 2015

Gog, Magog, and the Possessor of Two Horns

LEGENDARY NAMES THAT KEEP COMING BACK: A wall of iron built to keep out Gog and Magog. The two giants in London's Lord Mayor's Show surprisingly figure in the Koran too (Christopher Howse, The Telegraph).
The 14ft-high wicker figures of the giants Gog and Magog are being spruced up for the Lord Mayor’s procession, which they will lead in a few weeks’ time.

Sticklers insist that they should be called Magog and Corineus, placing their confidence in the 12th-century account by Geoffrey of Monmouth of the fight between those two heroic figures. But the City of London giants are carefully labelled Gog and Magog.

The names are found in the Bible, though it is unforthcoming about their nature. “Son of man,” says the prophet Ezekiel, “direct your face against Gog, of the land of Magog.”
Gog and Magog first appear in Ezekiel 38-39.
The last book of the Bible, Revelation, takes up the names when it says that at the end of the world, after Satan has been bound for 1,000 years, he will be loosed and will “deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog”.
Revelation 20:7-8.
What surprised me was to find Gog and Magog in the Koran. Muslims regard the Koran as the uncreated word of God. That need not present difficulties for the tales found in Sura 18 of the book, even though they bear similarities to folklore from other sources.

Sura 18 narrates briefly the travels of Dhu l-Qarnayn. The name means Two Horned, but it does not refer to Moses (who is often depicted with horns of power). Dhu l-Qarnayn has rather been taken to mean Alexander the Great. The name is explained in a narrative found in a sixth-century Syriac version and known as the Alexander Romance. “Thou has caused horns to grown upon my head,” Alexander says to God, “so that I may crush the nations of the world.”
Actually the phrase "possessor of two horns" comes originally from the biblical book of Daniel and it seems to be applied to Alexander through a mixup, or at least some lateral thinking. See this post for details. The Alexander Romance, of which I was not aware, may be the missing link between Daniel and the Qur'an.

Keep reading for the story about Gog and Magog in the Qur'an.